Cavan/Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith has expressed his disappointment again with the response by the Minister for Agriculture to the need to introduce low cost credit facilities for farmers facing financial difficulties as promised almost a year ago in Budget 2018.
Deputy Brendan Smith stated that it is critical that such credit facilities are put in place without further delay due to the financial pressures and poor income returns faced by most farming sectors since the early part of 2017. He added that the Minister’s recent reply to his Parliamentary Question indicates a total lack of movement on what was promised by the Government.
For Written Answer on : 07/09/2018
Question Number(s): 1002 Question Reference(s): 36827/18
Department: Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
To ask the Minister for Agriculture; Food and the Marine his plans to introduce low cost credit facilities for farmers facing financial difficulties; when the scheme will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
One of my priorities is to improve access to finance for the agri-food sector. I announced in Budget 2018 that my Department is considering the development of potential Brexit response loan schemes for farmers, fishermen and for longer-term capital financing for food businesses. These schemes are developed and delivered in cooperation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and take time to develop and operationalise. Consideration and discussions with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Finance are ongoing on a long-term investment scheme and an announcement in this regard is expected to be made shortly.
While continuing to explore additional funding mechanisms to address gaps in the market, I also liaise with the main banks on access to finance issues relating to the agri-food sector. I have had ongoing engagement with the banks on the cash flow pressures arising from the effects of the weather on grazing and fodder stocks and I welcome that they are following through on their commitment to support the sector. The delivery of last year’s Agriculture Cash Flow Loan Scheme is acting as a catalyst to encourage financial institutions to improve and develop new loan products for the sector.
A recently announced initiative by one of the main banks mirrors the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme in offering a discounted interest rate with extended and flexible repayment terms. The ‘Milk Flex’ loan product developed by the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, with dairy co-op and private banking participation, is another good example of innovation in this regard.
I know that many farmers will be relying heavily on co-op and merchant credit to navigate through the current situation. Therefore, I have also welcomed recent initiatives by co-ops in relation to credit facilities for their suppliers.